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Jansma family uses new technology to feed bottle calves

One of the calves on Jason Jansma's farm near Adrian feeds in the ID Tek machine.

ADRIAN — Warren Jansma is proud to share in the work of raising 1,200 Holstein bull calves with his two sons, Jason and Wayne, on farms near Ellsworth and Adrian.

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From raising the calves on Jason’s farm to preparing them for market on Warren’s acreage, farming is simply a way of life — though one that took a little work.

Warren said when his sons decided to go into farming, it was a surprise.

“Both of my boys were not interested in making farming a career at first, but when they did I was very proud,” he shared.

“I originally went to Iowa Lakes Community College for construction, and worked in construction until 2008 when I was laid off due to the recession,” said Jason. “Then I was sort of working for different people before realizing that I wanted to start my own farm and help the family.”

Wayne, the youngest son, shared a similar story.

“I went to Minnesota West for farming, but soon just ended up working for different people, before dad hurt his arm, and I started helping with chores around the farm,” Wayne explained.

Warren said it’s great to have Wayne help out on both farms.

“He can go between my farm and Jason’s and know exactly what to do,” he said. “It’s a huge help.”.

Jason purchased his farm more than three years ago as an expansion of Warren’s farm. After the first year, he was raising 150 calves.

The calves come from six different dairies stretching from Brookings, S.D., to farms throughout southwest Minnesota.

“We now can raise the babies on milk for two months, then they move to the other barn on my property, which is the growers,” Jason explained. “They’re in there for four months, and then they move to my dad’s farm where they’re prepared for market.”

Jason feeds the 150 calves milk via ID Tek calf feeders, a relatively new, innovative technology.

ID Tek is a machine that automatically distributes the correct amount of milk to each calf each day. Jason said the calves normally eat 12 to 16 times a day.

“The calves have an ID tag on their ear and it tracks how much each is drinking,” he said. “If a calf isn’t getting the proper amount of milk, I can track it down and assess the issue.”

Jason also noted the open layout of the barn for the calves is very humane and gives them a chance to eat as they please.

“Instead of being in individual pens, we have enough space to have them divided into larger open pens so they can be with other calves, and play around,” he added.

ID Tek costs $2,500 and feeds about 25 calves at a time. However, Jason said, it’s all about personal preference.

“For our purposes, this works great,” he said. “It’s normally just me working on the farm, so this cuts my workload in half. I don’t have to bottle-feed each individual calf — they feed themselves.

“You do have to be a bit tech-savvy,” he added. “I do know people that have tried it and gone back to bottle feeding; it’s all about what will fit your needs.”

After the cattle spend a couple months in the starters barn they move to the growers barn, where they are fed dry food twice a day and prepared to be moved to Warren’s farm.

Two years ago, Warren and Wayne, along with Warren’s brother Bill, embarked on a project to build a A-frame slat-pit barn to house the cattle coming from Jason’s farm.

“The project took a bit longer than expected, but we had cattle moved in by Christmas Eve in 2012,” Bill said. “It holds about 540 cattle, and again they have room to spread out. Since the structure is semi-open on the right and left side, they catch a nice breeze as well.”

Warren also noted that the structure keeps clean because there is a 12-foot manure pit below.

“The cattle are comfortable, and that in turn makes them better for market,” Warren said. “When the cattle are not stressed, comfortable and have a healthy balanced diet every day, that equals more poundage.”

The Jansmas agree that keeping it a family operation has made business a lot easier.

“Some farmers would have to go through three different farms — to get the calves, the growers and then the ones ready for market,” Jason said. “We have all three.”

The Jansmas have room for more expansion, but Jason said that for now, they’re just happy with what they have.

Daily Globe Reporter Erin Trester may be reached at 376-7322.

Erin Trester
Erin Trester is the crime and city reporter for the Daily Globe. She's a native of Lewiston, MN, but moved to Buffalo, NY to attend college and obtained her bachelor's degree in Communications. She started at the Western New York Catholic Newspaper as a reporter in Buffalo, but in October 2013 she returned to her home state to start with the Daily Globe. Most of her spare time is taken up by her 13-year-old thoroughbred named Faith, but some of her other hobbies include reading, fishing and spending time with friends and family. 
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